By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
These days just about everyone knows a salty diet is bad for the heart. But did you know that sugar is also linked to heart disease?
In fact, there was one 15-year study that found people who ate more added sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease compared those who at the least of it.
Sugar raises your blood pressure, triglycerides and heart rate. To top it off, we now know that sugars fill your bloodstream with deadly small, dense LDL particles. These are the type of LDL that slip into your arteries and cause the plaque buildup associated with heart attacks.
Plus, sugar is directly linked to fatty liver. It’s connected with obesity and type 2 diabetes. It’s inflammatory. It’s bad for you!
With this in mind, let’s re-evaluate some of the foods that put you at greater risk of developing heart disease. A lot of them actually sound like they might be good for you, but they aren’t.
Sneaky Sugars Hidden in Healthy-Sounding Foods
The problem with both sugar and salt is that they are hidden in so many foods that sound healthy. Sure, it’s easy to spot the obvious. Candy, cakes, pastries, cookies, jams and syrups all come to mind.
But some might not be as clear cut. So you’ll also want to watch out for them.
Some of the worst sugar offenders are granola bars and other snack bars. The majority of these healthy-sounding snacks are loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS,) and even salt. The same can be said of most breakfast cereals.
And what about all of those yogurts made with “real fruit?” They can be a minefield of sugar. For example, a single serving of Yoplait Strawberry yogurt will deliver a whopping 19 grams of sugar and 90 mg of sodium.
And here’s one that will blow your socks off. Tonic water. A lot of people order their mixed drinks with it to avoid sugary mixers, but guess what? A single 12 ounces of tonic water contains between 30 and 35 grams of sugar. Drink two or three of them, and your bloodstream isn’t just flooded with alcohol. It’s overflowing with more sugar than it knows what to do with.
Keep in mind that the recommendation is for women to consume less than about 24 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar a day, and men 36 grams (9 teaspoons). Still, the average U.S. adult gets about 17 teaspoons of added sugar daily. Just imagine what all of that excess sugar is doing to not only to our heart health, but our overall health!
Where’s the Salt?
You already know foods like chips, French fries, pizza and processed meats are very high in sodium. But other sources aren’t always easily spotted.
For example, whenever I stop into Costco, they always have a sale on the rotisserie chickens they cook in the deli. And they fly off the shelves!
But the way stores cook their chickens is quite a bit different than the way you cook them at home. They inject them with a solution that contains huge amounts of sodium along with sugar and other processed ingredients. This is to keep them nice and moist while they’re cooking.
That’s a problem because, according to a Consumer Reports analysis, Costco’s rotisserie chicken has 460 mg of sodium for each 3-ounce serving.
Now if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or certain other health conditions, your sodium intake should be below 1,500 mg daily. So if you eat just one 3-ounce serving of Costco’s rotisserie chicken, you’ll already be at nearly a third of that. But chances are, since you bought the whole bird, you’ll eat more than one serving a day. So that’s an issue.
There are a lot of other foods that you wouldn’t expect to be a salt threat to your cardiovascular health.
One thing people find surprising is when natural, organic foods contain just as many unhealthy ingredients as their mainstream counterparts. Annie’s Organic Soups are a great example of this.
One serving of Annie’s Organic Tomato Soup contains 680 mg of sodium and 13 grams of sugar. A can of Campbells Tomato Soup? It contains 480 mg of sodium and 12 grams of sugar. Who would’ve guessed?
The funny thing about canned soups is that they usually contain two servings. But most people eat the whole can at once. In that case, you need to double those numbers.
Commercial salad dressings can be deceptively high in sodium. In fact, most condiments are. Soy sauce is the absolute worst. A single tablespoon can contain over 1,000 mg of sodium. And just two tablespoons of barbeque sauce can deliver upwards of 300 mg of sodium and 15 grams of sugar.
Healthy sounding whole grain breads… seasoned frozen veggies… canned veggies… cottage cheese… veggie burgers… frozen meals… sports drinks… vegetable juices. All of them are loaded with the stuff.
You can see how easy it is to blow your salt intake before the day is even half over!
Adding table salt to the mix doesn’t do you any good, either. A salt substitute like potassium chloride is okay as long as you don’t have any kidney problems. Mrs. Dash has a lot of unique blends of herbs and spices that can add zest to your meals. So these are some good options.
In the meantime, always check your nutrition panels before purchasing a product. And don’t forget to check the serving size. Often times, something that looks like a single serving could contain three or four servings. So you have to multiply sodium and sugar content by that amount if you plan to eat it all.
Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr;174(4):516-24.
DiNicolantonio JJ, Lucan SC. The wrong white crystals: not salt but sugar as aetiological in hypertension and cardiometabolic disease. Open Heart. 2014 Nov 3;1(1):e000167.
Jensen T, Abdelmalek MF, Sullivan S, Nadeau KJ, Green M, Roncal C, Nakagawa T, Kuwabara M, Sato Y, Kang DH, Tolan DR, Sanchez-Lozada LG, Rosen HR, Lanaspa MA, Diehl AM, Johnson RJ. Fructose and sugar: A major mediator of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Hepatol. 2018 May;68(5):1063-1075. Is Store-Bought Rotisserie Chicken Good for You? News Report. Consumer Reports. Mar 2021.